Swedish rockers Degreed are one of my favourite “New Swedish Revolution” bands; one of several artists in Scandinavia that are pushing updated modern melodic rock sounds – classic melodies for a new era - the likes of HEAT, Eclipse, Work Of Art and The Poodles for example.
Degreed are also close to my heart as I released their debut album Life, Love, Loss on MRR in 2009. The second album We Don’t Belong was another outstanding slice of memorable songs that saw the guys modernize a little further, while easing up on the harder edge of their sound. Those are two really amazing albums that simply exhume class, melody and style.
Now Dead But Not Forgotten fulfills the trilogy. This is the band’s Slippery When Wet; their Pyromania. This is simply an astonishingly good album that sees the guys excel in every single department – songwriting, performance, vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards and production – what can I say about production? Perfection! Balanced mix, clear instruments, powerful, easy to play at any volume. Absolute perfection.
Drummer Mats Ericsson is the man in control for the first time. He knows the songs and the sound intimately of course, but it is the sheer precision in which the album has been mixed and the performances captured that goes way beyond that a self-produced album normally sounds like.
If this rock star drummer lark doesn’t work out for Mats, then he has a long career as a producer and mix engineer ahead of him.
Robin Eriksson screams louder and wails with more passion than ever before, Micke Jansson is a revelation on keyboards this time around and Daniel Johansson now ranks as one of my favourite guitar players.
Simply put – there’s something on this album for everyone. Power, melody, classic and new sounds, anthems, harmonies, waiting guitars and lush keyboards. Quite extraordinary really.
I could go on and on, but let’s just cut straight to the music. And we have 14, yes 14 tracks and not one single minute of filler among them.
There is massive diversity, yet complete cohesion. That’s another credit to the band. And I’ve honestly had a really hard time reviewing anything lately as all I can play is this album.
The Scam – a 4 minute blast of angst and energy. Starts with a controlled melody before turning metal with some blinding vocals. A terrific guitar solo and a bombastic ‘live in concert’ ending.
Face The Fact – classic Degreed…modern and commercial, yet 80s keyboards swirling around in the background and a massive chorus. Should be on radio. Today.
Madness – darker and moodier, yet faster and even more melodic. A building melody rises to a dramatic chorus.
Shame On Me – once again, 80s keyboards filter through the song, from the opening sequence to the constant layer of melody under the thumping bass. The mid-song left turn into a short burst of modern aggressive metal and a blazing guitar solo just adds to the brilliance.
Better Safe Than Sorry – is simply a Song Of The Year contender with big harmonies, big everything. One of those album tracks you always look forward to hearing, despite loving all the tracks around it. A big melodic rocker that continues the frenetic pace of this album.
Love Me, Love Me Not – this little ditty is another true winner. One from the Degreed “mood” handbook with a pure FM radio commercial hook and fist pumping moody chorues.
Drama – great vocal into and those keyboards in play again. Verse to bridge to chorus…one hook after another.
Kill Your Darlings – in your face hard rocking attitude. Old meets new once again on this beefed up rocker, powered by riffs and rhythm. The bass and drum performance and indeed, the way the rhythm section are captured in the studio is another strong suit of this album.
Touch Of Paradise – hands in the air singalong melodic bliss on this anthemic, rocking AOR masterpiece with a chorus so utterly infectious, it should come with a health warning.
Forgive You – heavy. Then not. Then heavy, fast and furious. Then not! Then start over again. Another big favourite from this collection of favourites. This chorus is amazing.
Start Again – darker, heavier, keyboards everywhere, guitars everywhere.
Firefly – holy smoking melodic anthems Batman! How can a song this good, be relegated to track 12?!!! When 1-11 are as good as they are on this album, that’s how. But this is just another track to look forward to every time. This modern commercial rock that should be all over radio everywhere. Kids in their 1000s should be lining up to buy this.
Final Ride – fast and furious again and keyboard swirls mixing it up with choppy guitar riffs and punchy drum beats. And a great chorus of course!
Turn Around, Don’t Back Down – surely a ballad to close out this 14 track tour de force? After 13 rockers, this has to be a calm way to close the album? No way! While the first part might hint at something mellower, the chorus and remaining song put that to rest. A powerful melodic closer with a passionate vocal that draws to an end what can only be rated as a perfect album.
And that folks, is how you create a melodic rock album in 2015. One that has commercial appeal, modern writing and production, yet remains as melodic and keyboard fused as anything from the glory days.
There is always going to be comments here and there about someone “not getting” this band or this sound, or claiming it to be “overhyped”, but that’s simply because there are so many opinions and every one of them is absolutely valid, but not everyone is going to like every album right? If this style suits you and if the band’s first two albums already have a home in your collection, then this is absolutely essential. Essential I say!